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Terrorists still pose threats to hotels

publication date: May 21, 2011
author/source: Anthony C. Roman

Terrorists still pose threats to hotels

18 May 2011
By Anthony C. Roman
HotelNewsNow.com columnist

Story Highlights
  • Are hotels safer in a post bin Laden world? Yes and no.
  • Terror threats come from three likely sources: lone wolves as well as fringe and sleeper cells.
  • Hotels and resorts are attractive targets for terrorists.
"This blood will be a curse that will chase the Americans and their agents, a curse that will pursue them inside and outside their country"
(Credit: CNN.com)

The death of Osama bin Laden has raised the question: Are we safer in a post-bin Laden world?

It is not easy to make a clear-cut prediction. To understand the current risk to travelers and the hospitality industry, it is worth understanding the elements that lead to the death of bin Laden and its affect on Al-Qaeda's ability to wage war and continue on its quest of terror.

During the Obama presidency, there was a quiet but important shift toward counterterrorism versus counterinsurgency. Simply put, improvements in human intelligence gathering, changes in military tactics, the development of new technology, and the honing of military special operations, have effectively eliminated or captured a substantive number of Al-Qaeda's battlefield commanders and mid-level terror operatives globally. This has progressively diminished Al-Qaeda's ability to wage war and terror during the past two years.

The recent raid that resulted in the death of Al-Qaeda's ideological and military leader is significant not only tactically, but operationally. Tom Donilon, President Obama's national security advisor reports "... a small college library of material was taken" from the bin Laden compound.

 This should provide a treasure trove of intelligence. The apparent conclusion would be that the ability to further reduce the risk of attacks in a post bin Laden world is excellent.

Does this mean our hotels and corporate centers are safer now? Like the problem, the answer is disturbing: Yes and no. It is clear Al-Qaeda's ability to carry out large-scale, well-organized 9/11 style attacks has been successfully diminished. Their network is under serious threat as well.  But the analogy that a wounded creature is at its most dangerous may hold true here.

So what do we believe is the current threat against our industry, executives, transportation, and the world? It comes from three likely sources:

· The lone wolf: A radicalized individual who is moved to militancy because of bin Laden's death.

• Fringe terror cell: A loosely organized, low-level Al-Qaeda network cell that provides routine logistical support moves towards militancy.
• Sleeper cell: Well-trained, motivated militants prepared to lose their lives in a previously planned terror operation that is triggered into action by a specific sequence of events or command.

All three pose  serious threats to  porous, high-value targets that will have high concentrations of people, deep financial impact, and draw keen media attention-Al-Qaeda's modus operandi.

Hotels and resorts pose attractive targets for these threats. A recent example is the Times Square bomber, who, if successful, would have devastated a major hotel and caused countless deaths and casualties. It would have had serious consequences for the hospitality industry and the economy of New York City. Ripple effects would have progressively spread worldwide.

Al-Qaeda may cite Americans as their target for revenge, but their history leaves no doubt, no one or business is really safe.

Next week, I will outline how we can better protect our industry from Al-Qaeda's changed, but still very serious threat.

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